I had a wonderful 15-year career with the USFWS, from 1971-1986. I had extraordinary experiences that few individuals will ever have the privilege to know.
I was born in Massachusetts and educated at the University of Arizona and at Colorado State University. While completing my Master’s in Wildlife Biology at Fort Collins, I was on the Federal Register. It was the Viet Nam era; veterans had a well-deserved 10-point preference.
One day I received a letter from the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife in Atlanta, saying that the Department of the Interior was putting pressure on the Bureau to hire women, specifically four professional women. I was offered a temporary GS-4 Biological Aide position. I showed the letter to my graduate advisor who said “take the job; it’s the only way you’ll get in.”
So, I accepted the appointment at Merritt Island NWR. A few days after I accepted the appointment, in the midst of a blizzard at Fort Collins, I was visited by a National Fish Hatchery Manager from a Colorado hatchery. He drove through the fierce storm to “interview” me. We met in the forestry building, with wind and snow whipping outside. We were both concerned about his return trip. I asked him what questions he wanted to ask me and his response was “they just want to know what you look like.” We made small talk for five minutes and he was on his way back home.
Upon arriving at Merritt Island my first jobs were painting signs and cleaning the public restrooms at the 20-plus mile Playalinda Beach. The saving grace for me was that there were good people on the staff with me; Dr. Jim Baker, J.C. Bryant Elwood Hurte, Jeff Fountain, Refuge Manager Bob Yoder and Lawrence Wineland at Pelican Island. I was promoted to the refuge manager series, permanent full time, and loved being “low man on the totem pole.” I was assigned all sorts of odd tasks like chasing alligators out of NASA parking lots and retrieving stranded turkey vultures from the top floor of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building. I prepared the first design of the Black Point Wildlife Drive and its written guide. I received a complimentary note for the project from Director Greenwalt, a note which I cherish to this day.
During my first Fall I was handed a battered Smith and Wesson .38, a Bureau badge, and a fist full of pink slips. Overnight I had law enforcement authority. Tommy Hines, Special Agent at Sebring, FL was determined that I learn the ropes to be safe and professional. I am forever grateful to him.
During one of the NASA launches, Denny Holland was among the many Refuge Managers assigned to assist in launch day enforcement activities. When the time came for Denny to hire a new Assistant Refuge Manager at Back Bay NWR, he suggested that I apply and I did.
Thanks to Denny and Kathy, I had a wonderful experience as the Assistant Refuge Manager at Back Bay NWR. I managed to survive the 6-week avian cholera outbreak among coots early one Spring, often straddling the pontoon of Al Noltemeir’s helicopter as he hovered over the marsh while I grabbed dying whistling swans to be flown back to the base camp.
From Back Bay NWR I was transferred to Erie NWR as the Refuge Manager. The refuge had a large cooperative farming program with many of the farmers being Amish from the surrounding communities. I was the 251st person at Guys Mills, PA. I was proud to have survived 83 inches of snow, compliments of the Lake Erie snow belt.
From Erie NWR I was transferred to the Region 5 Office at Newton Corner, MA to work with the refuges which were receiving Bicentennial Land Heritage funding.
I was there only a year when Carrell Ryan called to say he wanted me to apply as his assistant in wildlife and refuges in the newly-created Asheville, NC Area Office. I had four wonderful years at Asheville working with Carrell and the Refuge Managers in TN, KY, NC and SC. I also had ascertainment responsibilities.
When Area Offices were closed I elected to be transferred to the Jacksonville Endangered Species Field Station with Dave Wesley as my supervisor. Once again I was working with wonderful people. My proudest accomplishment there was doing the field work and preparing the listing document which added three subspecies of Beach Mice to the Endangered Species List. I will always have a soft spot for the Alabama, Perdido Key and Choctawhatchee Beach Mice.
In 1986 my father unexpectedly passed away. I resigned from the FWS and moved back to Massachusetts as the co-owner and co-manager of my family-owned electric cable manufacturing business with 40-plus employees. I spent the next 20 years in the “real” world. During this time I also managed family lands for wildlife habitat enhancement and timber production. And, I was on my local Land Trust board. I retired to Morehead City, NC in 2010.
I am a member of The Wildlife Society, a Life Member of the American Society of Mammalogists, a Life Member of the NRA, and a National Fellow of The Explorers Club.